Thoreau went to the woods to suck the marrow out of life; here, I hope to drain every drop from the books I read, rather than tossing them aside and saying vaguely, “Oh yes, I read that once,” when they come up in conversation.
I’m a Christ-follower, a wife, a mother, a wannabe novelist (with a complete manuscript, no less!), and—of course—a reader. Stick around, poke around, speak up, and enjoy…and definitely recommend your favorites, because my mile-long to-be-read list could always be longer!
So, I’ve done it again, as is my terrible habit: I’ve started a whole bunch of books and don’t have much will to finish them.
Here’s a rundown of what I’ve got going right now:
Liberty Defined, Ron Paul. I very much want to finish this book beore it’s due at the beginning of October, but it’s so very dense that I can’t read much at a time. There’s so much good, solid truth in Dr. Paul’s words that I don’t want to just blaze through it….maybe I’ll have to read half now, return it, and check it out again sometime.
The $5 Dinner Cookbook, Erin Chase. Also, the breakfast and lunch cookbook by the same author. So many good recipes, so little time!
The City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell. This novel about missionaries from China around 1910 is really good but getting sad so part of me is reluctant to pick it up.
Vive la Revolution, Mark Steel. Learning a lot but since I own the book I’m setting it aside until I clear a few other things from my plate.
There are some other novels waiting, plus I had to return ten or so books I hadn’t gotten to but had incured mucho fines for ignoring…
Phew…now that it’s listed, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but for some reason, I feel overwhelmed lately. Like I never get any reading in. Like I’m getting nowhere.
Have you ever felt that way? What helped?
At first, I was a bit frustrated with A Love that Multiplies by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar: the beginning is mostly a recap of what has happened on their TV series (which I have seen) with a few–very few–details that had not been mentioned in that outlet. It was the in-depth look at how the Duggars approach discipline, Bible study, family time, and general encouragement from Michelle that I found most inspiring. I won’t go into all of the details because most people fall into the I-love-everything-about-the-Duggars camp or I-can’t-stand-the-Duggars-and-don’t-care camp.
Interestingly, the only thing that had every really struck me as “funny” about the Duggars was using actions to memorize Bible verses. I don’t know why, but I had this proud notion in my head that I was above that…even though I was not memorizing ANY Scripture! I have since started using that method and we are half way through memorizing the Sermon on the Mount! So, when I cut myself a little humble pie I got some Bible knowledge to go with it, which is a win in the end.
Here were a few inspiring poems Michelle shared in the book:
A woman once fretted over the usefulness of her life. She feared she was wasting her potential being a devoted wife and mother. She wondered if the time and energy she invested in her husband and children would make a difference.
At times she got discouraged because so much of what she did seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated. “Is it worth it?” she often wondered. “Is there something better that I could be doing with my time?”
It was during one of these moments of questioning that she heard the still small voice of her Heavenly Father speak to her heart. “You are a wife and mother because that is what I have called you to be. Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye. But I notice. Most of what you give is done with out remuneration. But I AM your reward.
“Your husband cannot be the man I have called him to be without your support. Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know. I bless him through your service and honor him through your love. Your children are precious to Me. Even more precious than they are to you. I have entrusted them to your care to raise for Me. What you invest in them is an offering to Me.
“You may never be in the public spotlight. But your obedience shines as a bright light before Me.
“Remember you are My servant. Do all to please Me.”
I cannot remember if it is the one above or below that Michelle wrote she has hanging where she can see it often…I wouldn’t be surprised if it were both!
If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper–not a homemaker.
If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness–not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.
Love is present through the trials. Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood. Love is the key that opens salvation’s message to a child’s heart.
Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection. Now I glory in God’s perfection of my child. As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.
But probably the most striking piece to me was one I forgot to mark so cannot quote exactly, but I have certainly internalized it: Jesus charged me to make disciples; he did not charge me to make friends. Michelle Duggar points out that when we are seeking the approval of others we might compromise ourselves, but if our goal is to share Christ with them, how can we steer wrong? What a testimony…and so true. I think it was the most profound statement (for me) in the entire book.
Definitely will have to pick up a copy for reference someday…especially since it has to be back to the library soon!
Well, sort of. But not really.
I realized recently that though I don’t miss being told what to read, when to read it, and how to think about it, I do miss the stimulation and accountability that college builds into my reading life. So I took it upon myself to create my own semester schedule!
I know I’ve said before that reading plans stifle me, but this is looser in the sense that I have assigned course topics and beyond that can read as I please, whatever book strikes my fancy on that topic.
Originally, I had a four-course load but realized that’s too much when paired with my full-time job of
monkey wrangler mom and part-time, self-imposed writer gig.
So my “formal” courses are
Ron Paul-ism. I started following Ron Paul’s political career in 2007 when I saw “Who is Ron Paul?” scrawled in sidewalk chalk on my way home from class. After a little time on Google, he became my candidate of choice for the 2008 election and I am thrilled to support him this time around in his bid for the presidency. I am in love with this Congressman from Texas’s principles, integrity, and consistency. Only the first can be learned by books, so I’m reading books by Dr. Paul and some he recommends on monetary and foreign policy. I highly recommend you check out his campaign website here.
The French Revolution. After reading Gates of Gold and seeing several documentaries that show how much the French influenced the American Revolution and vice versa, I’ve wanted to know more about this period in history…beyond Kirsten Dunst and “let them eat cake.”
Running. Not reading material, true, but it takes up my time for it, and if I went to University, they would charge me to take a class on it, so it counts.
I’ll also be reading fiction, cookbooks, and anything that grabs my fancy from the “New” shelf at the library as I see fit.
What are you reading this fall?
Hello all, Pookie here! It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my read alouds with Mama, but summer is a busy time for me…travel, parties, juice boxes. You understand.
Anyway, we struggled to find something good to read for a long stretch, but once Mama started reading me American Girl books, we seemed to hit a rhythm. We’ve read Meet Felicity and Felicity Learns a Lesson. Right now we’re reading Felicity’s Surprise; sense a pattern? Once we finish the Felicity books, we might take a break from American Girl…or we might not. Who knows. The world is our sandbox.
I know you’re thinking those books are for big girls, but does it really matter? I’m learning to listen to a story, aren’t I? And Mama’s enjoying the stories, which is more than we can say for Stuart Little…
We’ve also had a change in when we read our read alouds, because Mama felt the need to read more of the Bible throughout the day. So, our story read aloud has moved to whenever it fits in our day, and we read the Bible at breakfast and lunch. We read again with Papa after supper, which is my favorite Bible time of the day because I get to hold and flip through my own Bible, the pink one my pastor and his wife gave me right after I was born.
It’s pretty special to me.
So, that’s what I’ve been reading…hope you’re reading something good, too!
P.S. Could you tell Mama to take pictures of me when I’m doing something other than eating?
I found The Pioneer Woman blog sometime in college. As a dairy farmer’s daughter in a big city, I really enjoyed reading about a city girl moving to the country; it helped with the homesickness. It also helped that Ree was incredibly funny.
I enjoyed the story of how she met her husband, who is known on the site as Marlboro Man (though Ree is quick to point out he doesn’t smoke), which was told in installments. Over time, other blogs caught my interest and my visit to PW were less frequent. But when I saw that she had published her love story as a book, I was excited…and then even more pumped when I saw it on the shelf at my local library!
True to the writing style on her blog, the book is humorous, touching, and relatable. Ree’s word choices can be over the top sometimes, but it definitely rings true of her voice.
The book includes not only their courtship, it also tells about their wedding, disaster honeymoon (waaaaaaaaaay too much vomiting to be a fun trip!), almost immediate pregnancy, down-on-our-ranching-luck first year, and the birth of their first baby. Again, it made me nostalgic for home and country living and gave me the itch to get back to farming with the Professor and Pookie. But we’ll get there someday. In the meantime, fun summer reads like this one help take the edge off the wait.
What have you read this summer?
I truly enjoyed Helen Keller’s autobiography…right up to the end. The last chapter is mostly a list of thank-yous to people who meant a lot to Ms. Keller up to that point in her life (she wrote her story while in or just after college), and included great praise for a bishop to whom Helen, quite young, posed the question, “Why are there so many religions?” And the bishop replied with the cop-out all-religions-are-the-same and that the main point is to love. Ms. Keller was quite taken by this notion and held to it. But it is not true: Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the only Truth, the only means of salvation, and the greatest mark of love there can be.
Phew. Can you tell that bothered me? Now, onto the positives…
Helen Keller is fascinating, and she was a tremendously strong-willed child who was able to funnel her energy into learning, playing, and loving once given tools to communicate. She tells stories that I never would have expected possible for a girl both deaf and blind, like when she and some friends had to scurry down and cling to the underside of a bridge as a train went over top!
I was surprised and pleased at how much Ms. Keller wrote about education, about what works and what doesn’t. She sounded quite like Charlotte Mason: lots of nature time, lots of stories. Sounds like a good start to me.
As usual, a few of my favorite bits:
“Those early compositions were mental gymnastics. I was learning, as all young and inexperienced persons learn, by assimilation and imitation, to put ideas into words. Everything I found in books that pleased me I retained in my memory…and adapted it. The young writer…instinctively tries to copy whatever seems most admirable…It is onlyl after years of this sort of practice taht even great men have learned to marshal the legion of words which come thronging through every byway of the mind” (67). So true: how many little ones come up with stories that look very much like something they’ve just read…unfortunately for Helen, she did so unknowingly, it was published, and the whole thing caused quite the scandal.
An interesting take on college–that it’s not quite what it’s cracked up to be (as many students realize at one point or another):
“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was. There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch. There are there, it is true; but they seem mummified. We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them…Many scholars for get, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding” (88).
Here, here! I have enjoyed books so much more outside of school than I did in school, and somehow my thoughts are deeper–and more mine–when I’m not worried about some exam.
Beautiful, beautiful language here about returning to the countryside:
“What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb in riotous gladness!” (104)
I haven’t finished any books since I last posted, but I am really, really enjoying Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life. I highly recommend it to anyone; the language is rich and the stories are interesting–much more so than any other autobiography I’ve read. I’ll write more on it when I finish, but for now it’s a great treat.
Yesterday I realized that I had overdue books…oops. So, Pookie and I took a trip to the library, with the intent of getting a few board books for her. I did that…but Somehow, I ended up with a stack of my own…
The second and third Felicity books from American girl for lunch time readalouds.
The Celtic Knot, another “Girls of Many Lands” novel from American Girl (notice a theme here?)
Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
Run Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello
A big fat cookbook and a bunch of Helen Oxenbury books for Pookie
A lot of fun, easy reads before September sets in…looking forward to them!
What are you reading this week?
I read–and enjoyed–two contrasting books while vacationing last week.
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau is about how to “set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world,” touting follow-your-bliss over sticking in a secure-but-boring job and lots of travel.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison, about a woman’s yearning for change from her supremely happy (if a bit confined) suburban existence that led to selling her family’s house and being in a sense homeless for three years (three years of having teenage boys, no less) as they sought a new life in a small country town, slowly building their dream house.
Guillebeau’s enthusiasm is contagious; I dropped the book several times to brain dump book and blog ideas. However, he comes off a bit haughty and my-way-or-the-highway…or maybe my-way-or-a-boring-and-miserable-life.
And I’ve realized I’ve reached the end of my study in another genre: live-your-dream-by-quitting-your-stifling-job how-to books. Because here’s the thing…I’m living my dream! I have a husband, a baby, and a novel I’m in the process of publishing! I cook and clean (well, I try to motivate myself to clean…), I read books with my daughter and watch her play and grow, I read what I want and get more than enough TV time, and I created a schedule that gives me time to pursue my publishing dreams. My husband and extended family are entirely supportive. In other words, I have arrived on the live-your-dream scale! Hooray!
On the flip side of breaking out and conquering the world, Kenison’s book urges the reader to slow down and enjoy everything about life in the here and now because it changes so quickly. This book reminded me how quickly kids grow and will be gone…it also reminded me how much I love a good memoir. Maybe I can replace my live-your-dream books with memoirs…
Anyway, here are my favorite takeaways from The Art of Non-Conformity:
“Create a continual metric for your work,” is something that I was doing while drafting my novel but have stopped since hitting my editing phase…I need to figure that out and soon (216).
“You may even need to devote extended periods of time to what I call ‘radical exclusion,’ or shutting out absolutely anything that serves as a distraction from your key priorities…Bill Gates famously did this during his ‘Think Weeks,’ where twice a year he would shut out all distractions and head into a room of reading material for several days at a time. An aide would bring in grilled cheese sandwiches and diet soda twice a day, and Gates would plot the future of Microsoft’s world domination strategy” (176). Oh how I wish I could lock myself away and be sent grilled cheese sandwiches and diet soda at my bidding…not likely to happen any time soon in this momma’s life!
I’ll follow up with quotes from Kenison’s book next time; for now, I’m off to catch up on some Netflix and one-on-one time with the Professor after he spent a looooooong week at a microbiology conference.
A few lines written on yesterday’s picnic at the park:
photo by James Jordan
just old enough
to find you curious
she pulls your bark away
in tiny bits
with chubby fingers
testing them on her tongue.
and I recall pulling
at raised bumps and cracked folds
as i hid from the world
in your branches.
her tender roots push
intertwined with yours
with mine, with me
and we are all together
across time and space
I used to write poetry all the time but stopped–I don’t know when or why…but if felt good to jot a few lines on the back of a crumpled receipt yesterday when muse struck.
I shot off a post a few weeks ago while in the middle of Schoolgirls by Peggy Orenstein, a book I chose because I so enjoyed Cinderella Ate My Daughter and was curious about the author’s take on life as a junior high girl.
Some of the stories presented were so foreign to me, I didn’t know what to think; the first half of the book, detailing life at a suburban middle school somewhat like my own, was filled with girls so afraid of getting something wrong in class that they never spoke or volunteered answers. The same girls were pinched, grabbed, and harassed in hallways while school officials simply said that “boys will be boys.”
Then I realized the book was written in 1994. I was in junior high in 2000 and in a small, Midwestern town. Maybe we’ve come a long way since then? Maybe my itty bitty, small town experience was just a different planet compared to the coasties? I’m not sure which is the case (I’m hoping the former and that schools can really pat themselves on the back for making gender equality better in the classroom), but either way, the book simply didn’t resonate with me. I felt sorry for the girls, women now of about 30, and the various body image, familial, academic, and social problems they were facing…but I just couldn’t seem to invest myself in the book.
So, I guess I’m walking away from it saying “meh”. I also think I’m walking away from reading about issues related to public school for a while: the Professor and I decided years ago, before we were even married, that we would be homeschooling our kids. Now, while Pookie is still in diapers, is the time to be thinking about, researching about, and planning for that chapter in our lives…not arming myself for a fight that isn’t mine.